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Seventeen people were killed today and at least 140 wounded in violent clashes between riot police and protesters in Kyrgyzstan.
Riot police fought running battles with more than 5,000 demonstrators in the capital Bishkek as angry crowds demanded the resignation of President Kumanbek Bakiyev.
Larisa Kachibekova, a spokeswoman for Kyrgyzstan’s Health Ministry, confirmed the casualty figures.
Police fired teargas and stun grenades at stone-throwing protesters. Witnesses described clouds of teargas sweeping across the square outside the presidential offices as bursts of automatic gunfire filled the air.
Opposition groups stormed the state television centre, forcing all programmes off the air, as the confrontation threatened to spiral out of control.
Protesters attempted to ram an armoured vehicle stolen from police through the gates of the presidential administration. Reporters saw demonstrators carrying lifeless bodies away from the area as ambulances raced through the crowds picking up dead and wounded.
Moldomus Kongantiyev, the Interior Minister, was reported to have been killed by protesters in the northwestern city of Talas, where riots first erupted yesterday.
The truth of the report could not be confirmed. The first deputy prime minister, Akylbek Zhaparov, was also said to have been taken hostage after being beaten up.
The protesters were demanding Mr Bakiyev’s resignation five years after the 2005 “Tulip revolution” that brought him to power at the head of a pro-democracy movement in the impoverished Central Asian republic.
Opposition groups accuse him of restoring authoritarian rule in response to public protests against government corruption, nepotism and sharply rising living costs.
Krygyzstan plays a vital role in the war in Afghanistan because the United States uses an air base in Bishkek as a supply line for troop operations against the Taleban. Russia also has a military base in the former Soviet republic.
The US expressed "deep concern" and Russia appealed to all sides for calm. Kyrgyz authorities said that three opposition leaders had been arrested for “serious crimes”, including the former presidential candidate Almazbek Atambayev.
Witnesses said that hundreds of police fought demonstrators who tried to take over the main government building in Bishkek. Water cannon and rubber bullets were used as groups of young men dressed in black attacked officers and seized their weapons and armoured personnel carriers.
The Government imposed a state of emergency and curfew in Bishkek as well as in Talas and Naryn, another regional city where protests broke out yesterday. Demonstrators in Talas seized control of the local government building and held off police for several hours; they burnt portraits of Mr Bakiyev.
The 2005 revolution that overthrew President Askar Akayev started in a similar way in a regional town before spreading to the capital. One demonstrator, Aibkek Mametov, told AFP news agency: "Ordinary people want justice and freedom. They want a better future than now, so they are fighting for it."
Daniyar Usenov, the Prime Minister, called the protestors “bandits", not an opposition movement.
The clashes erupted just four days after Ban Ki Moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, visited Bishkek and urged the Government to do more to protect human rights.
Civil unrest engulfed the politically troubled central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan Wednesday, with the government declaring a state of emergency and street fighting resulting in more than 20 deaths, the Interfax news agency reported. At least 21 people died and more than 180 people were wounded in fighting between demonstrators and police, Russia's Interfax news agency reported, citing Kyrgyz media.
Interfax said Kabar, the Kyrgyz news agency, reported that the building of the National Security Service in Bishkek, the capital, had been seized and that detainees had been released from its pretrial jail. It also said the building housing the Office of the Prosecutor General burned down. Eyewitnesses also said that opposition supporters occupied the second floor of the parliament building.
The country has experienced political tensions for years, and the United States has a military base there that serves as a critical supply link to Afghanistan...
I have a nasty feeling the authorities have so far applied the 'soft touch' compared to what they may well unleash if this goes on much longer. You can't occupy a parliament, kill a government minister & take the President hostage without expecting a visit from the special forces.
[edit on 7/4/10 by pause4thought]
...The opposition has taken control of at least one television channel.
Another opposition leader, Omurbek Tekebayev, said in a broadcast that talks were under way with PM Daniyar Usenov.
Mr Tekebayev said the president must step down and reported that at least 100 demonstrators had been killed. This cannot be independently confirmed.
The health ministry was quoted by Associated Press news agency as saying 40 people had died and more than 400 were injured.
One doctor in Bishkek, Akylbek Yeukebayev, told Reuters news agency there were "dozens of dead bodies, all with gunshot wounds"...
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -Anti-government unrest rocked the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday as thousands of protesters stormed the main government building, set fire to the prosecutor's office and took over state television.
The eruption of violence shattered the relative stability of this mountainous former Soviet nation, which houses a U.S. military base that is a key supply center in the fight against the Taliban in nearby Afghanistan.